The powerful harness racing juggernaut, the Emma Stewart/Clayton Tonkin team rolls into Mildura this week for the only three-day cup carnival in Victoria.
The stable, based at Cardigan, near Ballarat, is tackling the country cups circuit with renewed venom this season, with Like a Wildfire capturing the Charlton cup two weeks ago (in fact, Stewart trained the trifecta), and Mach Dan taking our last weekend’s Horsham Cup (the Clayton-Stewart stable trained the first five in the $60,000 event).
Stewart and her partner Clayton Tonkin have three of the big guns in the two qualifying heats of the $60,000 Tasco Petroleum Mildura Pacing Cup tomorrow night, spearheaded by Like a Wildfire and Mach Dan, and backed up by a more than capable third string in Somewhere Secret.
“We used to go to the Mildura Cup quite a bit back in the day, and we’ve won it a couple of times. But we’ve concentrated more on young ones in the past few years, so it’s been a while since we’ve been,” Stewart said.
“It’s one of those feature events where you not only have to have the right class of horse, but you have to have horses with some depth – this is probably the first time for a while when we’ve had really suitable horses,” she said.
In the first heat (race 6) Stewart has Like A Wildfire, who, despite the awkward number 10 barrier draw, is the $2.20 favorite in early markets. In the second heat, Mach Dan is quoted at a $1.50 favorite (drawn in barrier 8), while Stewart’s other contender, Somewhere Secret comes from barrier 9 ($11).
The unique 2600 metre marathon distance and the race format (heats tomorrow into a final on Saturday night), make the Mildura Cup a tough race to win, and Stewart admits barrier draws can be a key to success.
“It’s also a race that’s hard to win because the track is so tight (805metres). The barrier draw comes into it a lot and if you draw the front that’s a big advantage I think. But under the race conditions, unfortunately the ones we’re bringing are all drawn out the back!” she said.
“We think we’ve got three pretty good chances – they’re all going well. It’ll be tricky, but in saying that, they’re all in good form.
“Somewhere Secret is racing as well as he ever has, and Mach Dan never goes bad. Those two really make their own luck. But Like A Wildfire needs things to go his way a little bit, so it’ll depend a lot on how the race pans out.”
The 2021 Mildura Pacing Cup will be conducted on Saturday night. Mildura will also host an action-packed meeting on Friday featuring the 2021 Niota Bloodstock Mildura Trotters Cup.
The high-quality cup heats are the most even in years and Mildura HRC CEO Michelle McGinty is thrilled at the quality of the fields.
“After we had to miss our cup last year due to COVID, we’re so excited that we’ve got terrific fields in both heats this year – we really couldn’t have hoped for better,” said McGinty.
“It’s been a massive job to get through our COVID compliance arrangements for all three nights, but the stage is set for a fantastic carnival and it’s great to have people back at the track and enjoying our racing.
“The Mildura Cup carnival is pretty special and it’s got an atmosphere all of its own. We’re hoping people will take the chance to get back to the track.”
NewsAlert PR Mildura